A salute to the south of France with a plucky white that's held up well over the years... The 2004 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc. $10, 13% abv. 55% Viognier, 20% Roussane, 10% Clairette, 5% Marsanne, 5% Bourboulenc, and 5% Grenache Blanc. Fruity, slightly lemony nose with a very round mouthfeel and short finish. Slight touch of vanilla on the aftertaste. This is a wine that's not spectacular, has no obvious flaws, yet remains alluring: a girl-next-door wine. Red or white, I think that Côtes du Rhône is an excellent way to introduce people to French wine.
Back in my wine novice days I latched on to Rhône. Despite my curiosity and desire to learn more, I still felt that French wines were too expensive or complicated for a neophyte. The Rhone taught me that there were accessible flavors and price points available everywhere if you're willing to look. All those little treasures of Sancerre and Banyuls and Savoie that get ignored by the mainstream American wine drinker as well as the covers of glossy wine mags.
I paired this wine with an odd little dish that popped up in my head while mowing the yard. Half a toasted croissant, a seasoned and roasted chicken thigh, sauce béarnaise, chopped shiitakes, steamed asparagus, and on the side some roasted nectarines with a Port/balsamic vinegar reduction. Great balance of flavors here. My béarnaise was thinner than I desired but it performed its role flavor-wise. You had savory, sweet, salty, tangy, and an impressive range of textures all in what was a relatively simple dish.